The value of Alaska salmon permits is another casualty of the coronavirus with prices dropping for all fisheries across the state. There are more permits for sale than ever.

“There’s so much uncertainty about even if there will be a season here and there and if there is a season, what kind of a price can we expect. With all of that uncertainty, we definitely see the price of permits coming down.”   

Doug Bowen runs Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.

  “I can’t think of one salmon permit that is gone up in value. And if there are different permit values that have not gone down, it’s simply because they’re not selling.”   

Prices for the bellwether drift net permits at Bristol Bay are all over the place, Bowen says, but well below last year’s high of $195,000

  “We sold quite a few Bay permits at that price and then the market softened a bit after the excitement died down, and we sold a number of them in the $180,000 range. Since the news of the virus broke, they’ve sold in the $150,000 range, and we just sold one recently for $165,000 and then the next one for $159,000. They are all over the map but the trend is unmistakable and it’s down.”

Another eye-raising twist at Bristol Bay is how many drift permits are listed as Emergency Medical Transfers (EMTs) for lease in the $18,000 to $25,000 range.

“It’s just a temporary arrangement here that someone else can go out and  use your permit temporarily for the season. And in this year, we’re seeing more folks just use the COVID-19 as a reason for transferring their permit or their quota on an emergency or temporary basis.”

Cook Inlet has the most salmon permits and packages for sale, with permits falling below $30,000.

“Cook Inlet has had several very poor years, the runs and the  harvests, and also just because of the management of the fishery they just haven’t been allowed to harvest the fish that do come back, with restrictions on where they can fish and when they can fish. They’ve just had terrible seasons back to back for the last several years.” 

The upturned food market has more processors talking about canning salmon this summer to fill the need for shelf stable proteins. Bowen says it’s anyone’s guess if or when the more lucrative restaurant trade will return.

“Not many are going out for dinner and that restaurant trade was largely responsible for some of the great prices we’ve seen for seafood here for many years. And I think it’s going to take a while for those restaurants to reopen and for folks to feel confident to go out and sit down and enjoy a great seafood dinner with Alaska salmon, halibut, or whatever.  It is just the times that we find ourselves in and there’s so much uncertainty about the virus. I think that’s why you see so many permits on the market.”